Living into this 2nd week of the COVID-19 crisis reminds me of another time in my life. It was the one and only time I ever got a “pink slip.” It came unexpectedly, out-of-the-blue and totally disrupted my life and the life of my family because I was the primary breadwinner.
I was the palliative care chaplain for Methodist Health System which included a Level 1 trauma center, a tertiary-care hospital, and a smaller community hospital in North Central Texas. I loved my work providing support to the dying, their families, and friends. I thought I had found my “niche” in life. I was happy.
On this particular day, I was in CCU of one of the facilities as life-support was being discontinued on one of our patients. I received a call on my pager to contact the pastoral care office. When I did, I was asked to come down to the office when I could. I thought, “no problem, later is soon enough.”
When I arrived, I was greeted by the Vice President of Pastoral Services and the Department Manager. They asked me to sit down, handed me a letter to read, and waited for my response. Of course, I was crushed. I had no words.
After the initial shock, nothing prepared me for later…when fear and anxiety really set in! My mind was filled with questions like, “how’re we going to pay the mortgage? Or what will our future or Crystal’s future look like now? I was already 45 years old, scared and with no resources beyond the income already coming into our household.
My Mom was here at that time and gave me some motherly advice. She reminded me to go back to what I know. The only way to know how God was speaking to my life situation was to ask. So, I did. I prayed…and I listened. I learned not to disregard the voice within me who sounded like me. I discovered that God’s Presence really was within me giving me a sense of guidance, resilience and peace. That Presence resides within you as well.
During that really dark place, I discovered through my relationship with God an unprecedented invitation to reimagine my life. I discovered that the more thought and energy I gave to the what if’s, the more anxious and agitated I became. I learned to live more fully into the “Serenity Prayer.”
Sisters and Brothers, we are now being given an opportunity to reimagine life in a new way; in a godly way that more closely aligns with the way of Jesus Christ as we learn through Scriptures and see expressed through his followers within and beyond the walls of the church. It is the WAY which does not shut out but invites in; a WAY that seeks to heal the wounded and gives hope to the hopeless. This WAY is already available to us and resides within us, but it’s expression through us is not without a cost. This is the heart of the Gospel.
When COVID-19 is over (and yes, it will end) I see a whole new horizon opened up to us. I see us being honest and truthful with ourselves and each other. I see us honoring our relationships with other human beings and with the rest of creation instead of ignoring and disregarding their inherent dignity. I see the Beloved Community existing all over the world. It can happen. It’s up to us to reimagine it so.
With many hugs and kisses…6 feet away of course! 😊
Serenity Prayer – Full Version (composed in 1940s)
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
Reinhold Neibuhr (1892-1971)